From the monthly archives:

December 2014

Another Christmas hymn

by Richard on December 29, 2014

Continuing with a look at some of Charles Wesley’s nativity hymns…
O mercy divine,
How could’st thou incline
My God to become such an infant as mine?
What a wonder of grace!
The ancient of days
Is found in the likeness of Adam’s frail race.
[...]

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Hymn of the day

by Richard on December 28, 2014

Stupendous height of heavenly love,
Of pitying tenderness divine!
It brought the Saviour from above,
It caused the springing day to shine;
The Sun of righteousness to appear,
And gild our gloomy hemisphere.
God did in Christ himself reveal,
To chase our darkness by his light,
Our sin and ignorance dispel,
Direct our wandering feet aright,
And bring our souls, with pardon blest,
To realms of [...]

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More from Charles Wesley on the Nativity

by Richard on December 27, 2014

O astonishing grace,
That the reprobate race
Should be so reconciled!
What a wonder of wonders that God is a child!
[...]

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A matter of perspective

by Richard on December 26, 2014

Reblogged from 10 years ago
I thought I might write a cheery reflection on my Christmas which has, it has to be said, been a prety good one. But somehow that doesn’t seem quite appropriate, with the news that the deathtoll from the earthquake is now known to be well over 20 000. How do you [...]

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Another Wesleyan Carol

by Richard on December 26, 2014

GLORY be to God on high,
And peace on earth descend!
God comes down, and bows the sky,
And shows himself our friend!
God the invisible appears;
God, the blest, the great I AM,
Sojourns in this vale of tears,
And Jesus is his name.
Him the angels all adored,
Their Maker and their King.
Tidings of their humbled Lord
They now to mortals bring.
Emptied of [...]

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Talking turkey

by Richard on December 25, 2014

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Hymn of the day

by Richard on December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!
Away with our fears!
The Godhead appears
In Christ reconciled,
The Father of Mercies in Jesus the Child.
He comes from above,
[...]

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A Wesleyan carol

by Richard on December 24, 2014

Although it was not until the Victorian period that the modern Christmas celebration was invented, Charles Wesley’s volume Hymns for the Nativity of our Lord went through 26 editions in his own lifetime. Where the Victorians would give us a sentimental vision of the baby in a manger, Wesley focusses on the mystery and paradox [...]

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Noel: Maddy Prior & the Carnival Band

by Richard on December 24, 2014

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Christmas expectations

by Richard on December 24, 2014

Expectations are hard things to live with. In a culture increasingly driven by “targets”, the expectations we have of ourselves and others can be a source of great hurt and confusion. This is especially true when our expectations do not match those of others. And it has to be said that there are many times [...]

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More thoughts on the Nativity stories

by Richard on December 23, 2014

If the Nativity stories are intended to tell us about Jesus, what do they say? Let’s remind ourselves of the “plot” first: In Matthew we begin apparently in Bethlehem. The angel appears in a dream to Joseph. Jesus is born. The visitors from the east follow a star. The flight to Egypt. The slaughter of [...]

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The purpose of the Nativity stories

by Richard on December 23, 2014

As I’ve said before, I love school nativity plays. But I worry about the way that some (most?) Christians treat the stories, as though if anyone asks if the events were not exactly as they’re portrayed in the school play that somehow the integrity and truth of the Bible is being questioned. “Biblical criticism” [...]

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Pope takes Vatican to task

by Richard on December 23, 2014

BBC News: Pope Francis sharply criticises Vatican bureaucracy
Pope Francis has sharply criticised the Vatican bureaucracy in a pre-Christmas address to cardinals, complaining of “spiritual Alzheimer’s” and “the terrorism of gossip”.
He said the Curia - the administrative pinnacle of the Roman Catholic Church - was suffering from 15 “ailments”, which he wanted cured in the New [...]

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Democracy in the workplace: the Rochdale Pioneers

by Richard on December 21, 2014

Before I became a minister, I worked for 6 years in the Co-operative Movement. I am a democrat. I believe that if democracy is a just system for running a country (it is, isn’t it?) then by the same token it is also a just system for running a commercial operation. I know that many [...]

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Local boy makes Good, by Harri Web

by Richard on December 21, 2014

When Christ was born on Dowlais Top
The ironworks were all on stop,
The money wasn’t coming in,
But there was no room at the Half Moon Inn.
The shepherds came from Twyn y Waun
And three kings by the Merthyr and Brecon line,
The star shone over the Brecon’s ridge
And the angels sang on Rhymney Bridge.
When Christ turned water into [...]

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That night in Bethlehem

by Richard on December 21, 2014

Altan sing the beautiful gaelic carol ‘Don Oíche Úd i mBeithil’ (That night in Bethlehem).

Tip: you can use the tune even if you don’t know gaelic. It fits very well to ‘O little town of Bethlehem’.

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The magic of Christmas

by Richard on December 21, 2014

Many Christians are apt to be just a little bit churlish when it comes to Christmas. I sometimes get a sense that Christians are resentful that “our” festival has been stolen, taken over by revellers who are happy to sing carols and watch a school nativity play but will give little or no thought to [...]

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Hymn of the day

by Richard on December 21, 2014

Lo! He lays his glory by,
Emptied of his majesty!
See the God who all things made,
Humbly in a manger laid.
Cast we off our needless fear,
Boldly to his crib draw near;
Jesus is our flesh and bone,
God-with-us is all our own.
Will his majesty disdain
The poor shepherd’s simple strain?
No; for Israel’s shepherd, he
Loves their artless melody.
He will not refuse [...]

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Mary’s manifesto — a hymn

by Kim on December 19, 2014

In Mary’s song of praise and peace
we call “Magnificat”,
a peasant maiden mocked the claims
of earth’s proud plutocrats.
An angel whispered, “You’re the one
who’ll carry heaven’s child.”
The girl, in fearful faith, said, “Yes!”
but barely forced a smile.
She went to see a kindred soul,
who praised what God would do;
yet Mary felt a deep unease
about the coming coup.
But then [...]

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Two things I find obnoxious about certain Christians at Christmas: not only, obviously, (1) the idiotic belligerence of some over the so-called “War on Christmas” (”Go ahead, punk, make my day: wish me ‘Happy Holidays’!”); but also, tiresomely, (2) the predictable sanctimonious pontifications and self-flagellations of others about in-house excess (”My fellow believers, remember the [...]

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